As the summer months are upon us, I hope this newsletter finds you enjoying the season and making the most of the longer days and warmer temperatures. Summer is always a busy time in Alaska, and that is certainly the case for CIRI.
I’m pleased to report that CIRI had a positive and successful annual shareholder’s meeting on June 1. The meeting was held in the Pacific Northwest at the Chief Leschi School in Puyallup, Wash. I’m grateful for the shareholders who took the time to participate in person, particularly those who drove hundreds of miles to attend. It was great to visit with old friends and meet new ones.
CIRI shareholders elected the five incumbent directors who were part of the Board-recommended slate. Congratulations to Charles Anderson, Hallie Bissett, Michael Boling, Rolf Dagg and Thomas Huhndorf on their election to another three-year term. And, to all of the shareholders who voted their proxies and participated in the election – thank you. As shareholders, electing directors is the most important duty that we perform each year to help guide the direction of CIRI and ensure the long term strength of our corporation.
The support received for the candidates and the positive feedback from shareholders signals that CIRI is moving in the right direction – balancing a healthy dividend policy with the need to invest and grow the company and provide sustainable benefits for current and future shareholders.
After the annual meeting, the Board of Directors met to elect the officers. After serving six years as Chairman, Charles Anderson decided to step down as chair and was appointed Chair Emeritus. The Board elected Thomas Huhndorf as the new CIRI Board Chair.
The entire CIRI family extends our deepest gratitude to Charles for his many years of service and the dignity he brings to Board meetings. His leadership set a respectful tone in meetings, allowing for spirited debate while maintaining the integrity of the process and courteous discourse. As Mr. Anderson continues to serve on the Board, his wisdom and professionalism will remain valuable assets.
For shareholders, an important element of the recent election is consistency. At a retreat in the fall of 2012 the Board established a set of six strategic focus areas for CIRI and those will remain the top priorities for the CIRI team going forward. These include organizational development, financial goals, bolstering CIRI leadership in the community, a strategy to expand CIRI’s investment in Alaska resource development and identify new opportunities in the area of energy infrastructure outside Alaska.
Another important focus area that was discussed at the annual meeting pertains to shareholder relevance. CIRI seeks to strengthen its engagement with shareholders, as well as the villages and tribes in our region.
CIRI recognizes that as the stock of original shareholders is transferred through gifting and inheritance, there will be more shareholders with fewer shares. This is not unique to CIRI, as most Alaska Native corporations are experiencing the same dynamic. The challenge for us is to make CIRI as relevant for the next generation of shareholders as it has been for the original shareholders.
We recognize there are many aspects – financial, social and cultural – that are involved in the goal of enhancing shareholder relevance. Healthy and consistent dividends are key. The Board’s dividend policy, which sets the dividend amount according to Shareholders’ Equity, ensures the payouts will be consistent and it motivates all of us – the Board, shareholders and management – to achieve the overarching goal of increasing Shareholders’ Equity. We are exceedingly proud that, this year, CIRI’s cumulative distributions to shareholders will top one billion dollars.
At the same time, we know that dividends alone cannot fulfill CIRI’s mission of promoting the social well-being and Alaska Native heritage of our shareholders, now and into the future. The CIRI family of nonprofits plays an important role in helping to fully realize the mission of CIRI. Their contributions – the educational scholarships delivered by The CIRI Foundation, the social programs offered by Cook Inlet Tribal Council, health services made available by Southcentral Foundation and the cultural enrichment programs provided by the Alaska Native Heritage Center – touch many CIRI shareholders and descendants, improving self sufficiency and lifelong fulfillment.
Along with CIRI’s ongoing commitment to support our family of nonprofits, we are working on several initiatives to enhance shareholder engagement, particularly among our younger generation of shareholders.
One example that we were able to announce at the annual meeting was the decision to appoint a youth member to each of the three shareholder participation committees. Youth representatives will have the opportunity to meet directors, executive and management staff from CIRI and CIRI affiliated nonprofit organizations, and to hear about CIRI initiatives and business developments. In turn, the addition of youth representatives will allow CIRI to learn more about what is important to the next generation of CIRI shareholders. Interested youth will submit an application, a letter of introduction, a reference letter and a short essay explaining why they want to serve on the committee and what they know about CIRI and their Alaska Native heritage.
You will be hearing more about this and other initiatives in future Raven’s Circle articles. It is an example of how CIRI is reaching out to our diverse shareholders and encouraging active participation in the company as we work together to accomplish the CIRI mission.